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Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a news writer for Talking Points Memo. Before joining TPM, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett and interned at The L Magazine. At New York University she served as the deputy managing editor of NYU's student newspaper, The Washington Square News. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Catherine

A federal judge on Friday struck down a Michigan law that barred same-sex domestic partners of public employees from receiving benefits, mlive.com reported

Five same-sex couples represented by the ACLU of Michigan filed a complaint against Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and the state in 2011, claiming that their equal protection rights and due process were violated by the law. Public Act 297 prohibits public employers, such as cities and counties, from extending benefits to same-sex domestic partners.  

U.S. District Judge David S. Lawson determined Friday, just days after the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, that the law did indeed violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Lawson granted an injunction against enforcement of the act until a final ruling is made on the law's constitutionality.

"This law served no purpose to the state of Michigan other than to needlessly discriminate against hard-working families," Kary L. Moss, the executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, said in a press release. "It's hard to encourage talented people and their families to work for public employers in Michigan when they're denied the ability to take care of each other."

Under the injunction, public employers are not required to offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners.

An inspector general's report released Thursday found that the U.S. Park Police (USPP) lost track of hundreds of firearms in its possession, revealing "a theme of inaction and indifference by USPP leadership and a lackadaisical attitude toward firearms management."

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) performed unannounced inspections on several weapons storage areas, revealing that "hundreds of handguns, rifles, and shotguns were not listed on official USPP inventory records." In April 2013 alone, the report said, an inspection uncovered two automatic rifles that the USPP did not know it had in its possession.

The report said that such an incomplete weapons inventory could "allow for the possibility that weapons that cannot be located and may not be in safe keeping," and among its recommendations the OIG urged the USPP to conduct a complete inventory and reduce the USPP's firearms inventory to the minimum needed to arm its force.

Federal prosecutors asked for permission Friday to seize the homes of former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) and his wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, in addition to an IRA of Jackson's with an almost $80,000 balance, the Chicago Tribune reported.

According to the Tribune, prosecutors asked a judge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to let them seize the Jacksons' homes in both Chicago and Washington, D.C.'s DuPont Circle. 

Prosecutors also pointed out that Jackson had returned only 12 out of 24 items worth a total of $61,910, including furs and celebrity memorabilia, that he agreed to forfeit because they were purchased with campaign funds.

Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty in February to misuing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign accounts, while his wife pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns. The couple is scheduled to face sentencing next Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said Thursday evening that he plans to discuss reforming the Voting Rights Act (VRA) with civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), according to Yahoo! News.

Lewis called the Supreme Court's gutting of a key provision of the VRA a "dagger in the heart" of the legislation. As a result, Congress must now rework the law that established a formula determining which counties with a history of racial discrimination needed federal pre-clearance for changes to their own voting laws. 

"I look forward to having some discussions," Cantor said in an interview with Yahoo! News. "I intend to talk to John Lewis about his thoughts on this matter. I think that you could probably say for both sides of the political aisle--no matter where you come from regionally--that very sacred right to vote is in the underpinning of this country."

An openly gay state representative was silenced by his colleagues on the Pennsylvania House floor Thursday when he tried to comment on the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

State Rep. Brian Sims' (D) remarks during a part of the House session where representatives are allowed to speak openly were cut off almost immediately by a procedural maneuver. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R) objected to the remarks on the grounds that Sims was speaking out "against God's law."

"I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God's law," Metcalfe said, as quoted by WHYY-FM.

Sims told WHYY that Republicans approached him after the session to apologize.

Correction: This post incorrectly referred to Sims as a state senator. He is a state representative. It also incorrectly said he was censured. In fact, he was blocked from speaking by use of procedural maneuver.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will receive the 2013 Liberty Medal this fall from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who many speculate could be a hypothetical 2016 presidential challenger to the former first lady.

Clinton will be honored "in recognition of her lifelong career in public service and her ongoing advocacy efforts on behalf of women and girls around the globe," according to the National Constitution Center's website.

Bush will present the award to Clinton at the N.C.C. in Philadelphia during a ceremony on Sept. 10.

“Former Secretary Clinton has dedicated her life to serving and engaging people across the world in democracy,” said Bush, who serves as the center's chairman, in a press release. “These efforts as a citizen, an activist, and a leader have earned Secretary Clinton this year’s Liberty Medal.”

Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, is a past recipient of the award.

This post has been updated.

Democratic Party sources told the Boston Globe Thursday that Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), whom Scott Brown defeated in an upset 2010 special US Senate race, is seriously considering a gubernatorial bid.

According to the Globe, recent polls have shown that public opinion about Coakley has been highly favorable since her 2010 defeat. Sources told the newspaper that Coakley is close to making a final decision, spurred on by the support of activist groups like EMILY's List.

The only other Democratic statewide officeholder in the race is Treasurer Steven Grossman. On the Republican side, Scott Brown has not yet publicly ruled out a potential run for the governor's office.

This post has been updated.

Utah state Sen. Jim Debakis (D) proposed to his partner at a party Wednesday evening celebrating the Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Debakis said in a statement that Utah, a traditionally Mormon state, should put aside religious matters in acceptance of civil marriages. 

"Utah must now decide if it is ready to open its arms to diversity and recognize that marriage is good for all society or if our state will continue to discriminate," Debakis said, as quoted by KTVX. "With so many young LGBT Utahan's deciding to marry and build families, it only makes sense to recognize those civil marriages. Religious matters, including marriage, should be left strictly to Churches but civil matters should be accepted without discrimination."

Debakis added that the state's position on same sex marriage is "not exactly good for bringing business to Utah" if it meant LGBT individuals transferred to Utah for work would "no longer be married" and their adopted children "may not be theirs anymore." 

"If Utah remains steadfast in its opposition to marriage equality, it will be increasingly difficult to bring out-of-state companies to Utah," he added.

President Barack Obama toured a former slave house on Goree Island, Senegal Thursday as part of his three-day trip to Africa.

Obama was accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama and his daughters. The former slave house's "Door of No Return," opening onto the Atlantic Ocean, is said to have been the last location for slaves being shipped to North America. The president spent a few moments there alone, per a pool report.

The president said the trip was a reminder that "we have to remain vigilant when it comes to the defense of human rights," according to the report.

"Obviously, for an African American, an African American president, to be able to visit this site, I think, gives me even greater motivation in terms of human rights around the world," he added.

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